Francine M.G. McCarthy

Department of Earth Sciences

Francine M.G. McCarthy


Micropaleontologist interested in 1) paleoceanographic, paleolimnological and paleoclimatic reconstructions of late Cenozoic sediments, 2) the impact of taphonomy on microfossil records, and 3) land–sea correlation.


Career History

  • 2002–present: Professor of Earth Sciences
  • 2001–2004; 2006–2007: Director, Great Books/Liberal Studies, Brock University
  • 1996–2002: Associate Professor of Earth Sciences, Brock University
  • 1998–2000: Director, Environmental Sciences, Brock University
  • 1995–2000, July 2005–present: Adjunct Professor, School of Geography and Geology, McMaster University
  • 1992–1996: Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences, Brock University
  • 1991–1992: Lecturer in Earth Sciences, Brock University
  • 1990: Lecturer in Geology, St. Francis Xavier University


  • Ph.D. (Earth Science) and B.Sc. (Hons.– Geology & Biology) Dalhousie University
  • M.Sc. (Geology) University of Toronto


  • ERSC 2P03 Earth History
  • ERSC/GEOG 2P15 Oceanography
  • ERSC 3P03 Paleontology and Paleobiology
  • ERSC 5P75 Paleolimnology


Francine studies microfossils from late Cenozoic (primarily Pliocene to Recent) marine and lacustrine sediments to reconstruct paleoenvironmental conditions (paleoclimate, paleoproductivity, paleosea-level, paleosalinity, etc.). These studies include investigating the impact of taphonomy (differential transport and preservation potential) on the record of these microfossils, which include pollen and spores, dinoflagellate cysts, planktonic foraminifera and thecamoebians. Her research has spanned small lake to abyssal marine environments and everything in between, primarily at mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, and has been conducted in collaboration with a number of geologists, biologists, geographers, and archeologists from government, university, and the private sector.

Specific research interests and activities

  • Postglacial climatic and hydrological changes in the Great Lakes region recorded by pollen/spores, dinoflagellate cysts and thecamoebians, currently focusing on the “8200 year event” with colleagues from the GSC (Geological Survey of Canada) and various Canadian and American universities
  • Palynomorphs (pollen/ spores and dinoflagellate cysts/ acritarchs) as sea level indicators; Late Cenozoic sea level change and the stratigraphy of the Atlantic Coastal Plain/ New Jersey margin with colleagues from the USGS (United States Geological Survey) and Rutgers University, and most recently as part of IODP (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program) Expedition 313, New Jersey Shallow Shelf
  • Impact of late Cenozoic aridification on sea surface productivity and sedimentation at mid-latitudes in the western North Pacific Ocean; correlation or Ocean Drilling Program sites with the Chinese loess plateau using marine and terrestrial palynomorphs
  • Studies of anthropogenic impact and remediation monitoring using microfossil bioindicators (thecamoebians, dinoflagellate cysts), in the Great Lakes region and more recently in the Oil Sands region of NE Alberta

Research student supervision

  • Lisa Neville (graduated 2009; currently PhD candidate, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Carleton University)
  • Martin Little (graduated 2005; currently employed as a professional geologist with AMEC Inc.)
  • Duncan Findlay (graduated 2004; currently employed as a petroleum geologist by Imperial Oil, Calgary)
  • Sarah Tiffin (graduated 2001; currently PhD candidate, School of Geography and Geology, McMaster University)
  • Adam Sarvis (graduated 2001; currently teaching high school Geography in Niagara region)
  • Kevin Gostlin (graduated 1999)



Recent Publications

  • Neville, L.A., McCarthy, F.M.G., and MacKinnon, M.D. (in press) A Seasonal Study (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter) Distinguishing Between the Effects of Environmental Factors and Chemical Impact on Thecamoebian Community Composition, in an Oil Sands Reclamation Wetland in Northern Alberta. Accepted to Palaeontologia Electronica April 12, 2010

  • McCarthy, F.M.G., Tiffin, S.H, Sarvis, A.P., McAndrews J.H. Blasco, S.M. (2010). Early Holocene brackish closed basin conditions in Georgian Bay: microfossil evidence. Journal of Paleolimnology. DOI 10.1007/s10933-010-9415-7

  • McCarthy, F.M.G. and McAndrews, J.H. (2010). Early Holocene drought in the Great Lakes basin caused hydrologic closure of Georgian Bay. Journal of Paleolimnology. DOI 10.1007/s10933-010-9410-z

  • Mertens, K.N. & 33 others (2009). The absolute abundance calibration project: the Lycopodium marker-grain method put to the test. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology v. 157, p. 238-252

  • Lewis, C.F.M. & 17 others (2008). Holocene dry climate disconnected the Laurentian Great Lakes. EOS  v. 89, p. 541-542

  • Lewis, C.F.M., Karrow, P.F., Blasco, S.M., McCarthy, F.M.G., King, J.W., Moore Jr., T.C., and Rea, D.K. (2008). Evolution of lakes in the Huron basin: deglaciation to present. J. Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management  v. 11(2), p.127-136

  • McCarthy, F.M.G., McAndrews, J.H., Blasco, S.M., and Tiffin, S.H. (2007). Spatially discontinuous modern sedimentation in Georgian Bay, Huron Basin, Great Lakes Journal of Paleolimnology  v. 37, p. 453-470

  • Mudie, P.J. and McCarthy, F.M.G., 2006. Marine palynology: potentials for onshore–offshore correlation of Pleistocene–Holocene records. Invited paper, Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa , Vol. 61(2), p. 139–157.
  • Brand, U. and McCarthy, F.M.G., 2005. The Allerod–Younger Dryas–Holocene transition in the west central Champlain Sea, eastern Ontario: a record of glacial, oceanographic and climatic changes. Quaternary Science Reviews 24: 1463–1478.
  •  McCarthy, F.M.G. , Findlay , D.J., and Little, M.L., 2004. The micropaleontological character of anomalous calcareous sediments below the CCD in the northwestern North Pacific Ocean. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 215: 1–15.
  •  McCarthy, F.M.G. , Gostlin, K.E., Mudie, P.J., and Ohlenschlager Pedersen, R., 2004. The palynological record of terrigenous flux to the deep sea: late Pliocene–Recent examples from 41 oN latitude in the abyssal Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Review of Paleobotany and Palynology 128: 81–95.
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. , Gostlin, K.E., Mudie, P.J., and Hopkins, J., 2003. Terrestrial and marine palynomorphs as sea-level proxies: an example from Quaternary sediments on the New Jersey margin, in Olson, H.C. and Leckie, M. (Eds.) “Micropaleontologic Proxies for Sea-Level Change and Stratigraphic Discontinuities”, SEPM Special Publication No. 75, p. 119–129.
  • Hopkins , J.A. and McCarthy, F.M.G., 2002. Postdepositional palynomorph degradation in Quaternary shelf sediments: a laboratory experiment studying the effects of progressive oxidation. Palynology, 26: 167–184.
  • Savrda, C.E., Krawinkle, H., McCarthy, F.M.G., McHugh, C., Olson, H.C., and Mountain, G., 2001. Ichnofacies of a Pleistocene slope sequence, New Jersey Margin: relations to climate and sea-level dynamics. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 171: 41–61.
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. , Gostlin, K.E., Mudie, P.J., and Scott, D.B., 2000. Synchronous palynological changes in early Pleistocene sediments off New Jersey and Iberia, and a possible paleoceanographic explanation. Palynology , 24: 63–77.
  •  McCarthy, F.M.G. and Gostlin, K.E., 2000. Correlating Pleistocene sequences across the New Jersey margin. Sedimentary Geology , 134: 181–196. 
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. and Mudie, P.J., 1998. Oceanic pollen transport and pollen:dinocyst ratios as markers of late Cenozoic sea level change and sediment transport. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology , 138: 187–206.

Recent talks and published conference abstracts (selected)

  • McCarthy, F.M.G., McAndrews, J.H., Sarvis, A.P., Tiffin, S.H., Blasco, S.M., and Lewis, C.F.M., 2006. Palynological evidence of paleodrought in the Great Lakes region. Annual Meeting, Geological Society of America, Philadelphia, PA., Oct. 22–25, 2006.
  • Lewis, C.F.M., Blasco, S.M., Karrow, P.F., McCarthy, F.M.G., King, J.W., Moore Jr., T.C., and Rea, D.K., 2006. Evolution of lakes in the Huron basin: deglaciation to present. Invited abstract, State of Lake Huron Conference, Oct. 11–13, 2006.
  • Medioli, F.S., Scott. D.B. and McCarthy, F.M.G., 2006. The importance of taxonomic clarification for the study of testate amoebae. Abstract, International Symposium on Testate Amoebae, Antwerp, Belgium, Sept. 11–14, 2006
  • McCarthy, F.M.G., Blasco, S.M., Sarvis, A.P., McAndrews, J.H., Tiffin, S.H., and Lewis, C.F.M., 2006. Microfossil evidence for closed basin conditions in Georgian Bay 8200 years ago. Oral presentation, 10th International Paleolimnology Symposium, Duluth, MN, June 25–29, 2006.
  • McCarthy, F.M.G., Findlay, D.J., Little, M.L., Hopkins, J.A. and Brand, U., 2005. Late Cenozoic plankton blooms in the subpolar North Pacific: climatic significance and taphonomic considerations. North American Paleontological Convention, Halifax, June 2005
  • Blasco, S.M., McCarthy, F.M.G., and Lewis, C.F.M., 2005. Geological constraints to paleoclimate modelling, Georgian Bay lake basin. International Association for Great Lakes Research, May 2005 
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. , Blasco, S.M., McAndrews, J.H., Tiffin, S.H., and Lewis, C.F.M., 2005. Reconstructing the postglacial history of Georgian Bay, North American Great Lakes, using fossil pollen and protists. Poster, Geologic Problem Solving with Microfossils , Rice University, March 2005
  • McCarthy, F.M.G., Little, M.L., Krueger, A.M. and Findlay, D.J., 2004. Palynomorphs demonstrate the link between continental aridification, sea surface productivity and the global climate. XI International Palynological Congress , Granada Spain, July, 2004
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. , 2004. Applications of lesser-known fossil protists to Quaternary paleolimnology. GAC-MAC Annual Meeting, St. Catharines, ON, May 2004
  • Blasco, S.M. and McCarthy, F.M.G. (2004). Late Quaternary history of the Georgian Bay basin – as viewed from the lakebed. GAC-MAC Annual Meeting, St. Catharines, ON, May 2004
  • Lewis, C.F.M., Coakley, J.P., King, J.W., Heil, C.W. Jr., Hubeny, J.B., and McCarthy, F.M.G., 2004. A submerged beach and shore face below eastern Lake Erie implies early Holocene climate-driven, closed-lake conditions . GAC-MAC Annual Meeting , St. Catharines, ON, May
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. , Findlay, D.J., Little, M.L. , Brand, U., and Krueger, A.M., 2003. The link between eolian flux to oceanic environments, sea surface productivity, microfossil preservation, and the global climate. Program with abstracts, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
  • Findlay , D.J., McCarthy, F.M.G., and Brand, U., 2003. A terrestrial source for anomalous calcium carbonate preservation in the abyssal western North Pacific. Joint meeting AASP-CAP-NAMS, St. Catharines ON, October 2003 (35% contribution)
  • Little, M.L. and McCarthy, F.M.G., 2003. Eolian transport of terrigenous material from east Asia to western Pacific ODP Sites 1179, 881 and 884 since the mid-Pliocene: positive feedback for global cooling. Joint meeting AASP-CAP-NAMS , St. Catharines ON, October 2003
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. , Findlay, D.J., Brand, U., and Little, M.L., 2003. Weakened Greenhouse Effect resulting from CO 2 sequestration in abyssal sediments of the western North Pacific. Abstract, 2003 CANQUA Meeting , Halifax N.S.
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. and Scott, D.B., 2003. Microfossil evidence for early Pleistocene deflection of the Gulf Stream at Cape Hatteras. Abstract, Meeting of the Geological Society of America, Northeastern Section/ Atlantic Geological Society , Halifax N.S., March 2003
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. , Blasco, S.M., Keyes, D., Harmes, R.A., and Sherman, K., 2003. Early to mid Holocene climate record from Severn Sound, Southern Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, Laurentide Great Lakes. Abstract, Meeting of the Geological Society of America, Northeastern Section/ Atlantic Geological Society , Halifax, March 2003
  • Lewis, C.F.M., Crowley, T.J., Blasco, S.M., King, J., Coakley, J.P., Anderson, T.W., and McCarthy, F.M.G., 2003. Sensitivity of Great Lakes levels to climate change: evidence from climate transposition and geological studies. Abstract, Annual Meeting of the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR)
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. , Ohlenschlaeger, R., Krueger, A., Jamieson, K. and Little, M.L., 2002. Micropaleontological insights into Pacific paleoproductivity: implications for late Cenozoic global climate change. Abstract, joint meeting of AASP/NAMS/BMS , London U.K., September 2002
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. and Blasco, S., 2002. Pre-European anthropogenic impact on Severn Sound – evidence from the sedimentological and microfossil record. Invited abstract, Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers , Toronto, May 2002
  • McCarthy, F.M.G. , McAndrews, J.H., Sarvis, A.P., and Blasco, S., 2002. The role of climate in the water level history of Georgian Bay, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Invited talk, Annual Meeting of the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) , Winnipeg MB, June 2002
  • McCarthy, F.M.G , Hopkins, J.A., and Tiffin, S.H., 2002. The palynological response to sea level change. Abstract, Annual AAPG Meeting , Houston, Program with Abstracts

Funding & Activities


  • GSC 
  • Syncrude Canada Ltd. 

Internal Activities

  • BUFA Grievance Officer (2004–2006)
  • Director, Great Books/Liberal Studies Program (2001–2004; 2006–2007)

External Activities

Media Interviews

  • National Geographic Naked Science documentary on the Great Lakes, filmed spring 2008
  • (CBC Radio on natural hazards, broadcast Dec. 19, 2005; French television E=M6 about the geologic history of Niagara Falls broadcast summer 2000)

National and International committees and editorial boards

  • President, American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists (AASP) (2006–2008)
  • Member, NSERC Scholarships and Fellowships Selection Committee #186: Earth Sciences and Ecology (2003–2006)
  • Newsletter Editor, Canadian Association of Palynologists (CAP) (2005–2007)
  • Director-at-Large, American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists (AASP) (2003–2005)
  • Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian Association of Palynologists (CAP) (1997–2001)

Conferences, symposia and workshops

  • Session Coordinator and Co-Chair, Special Session T17: Insights from Microfossils - From Geoarcheology and Pollution Remediation to Climate and Sea Level Change. Joint Southeastern-Northeastern Meeting, Geological Society of America, Baltimore MD (March 2010)
  • Field trip and special events coordinator, Annual Meeting of the Geological Association of Canada (May 2004).
  • Conference co-chair, Annual Meeting of the American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists (AASP), jointly with CAP and NAMS (October 2003).